Pavla 1/72nd Douglas O-46A

By Matt Bittner

History

From the instructions:

A development of an early Douglas-designed observation aircraft, the O-43, the Douglas O-46A was delivered to the US Army Air Corps in May 1936. The aircraft was a single-engine, parasol-winged monoplane, powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1535-7 engine. Although 71 aircraft were ordered, 90 were eventually delivered, the last entering service in April 1937.

The aircraft carried a crew of two and was armed with two .30 cal Browning machine guns; one in the wing and a flexible mounted gun in the observer’s cockpit.

The O-46A served with the USAAC as an observation aircraft until 1940, when it was realized that the type was too slow and heavy when compared with the fighter aircraft then being brought into service. It was also too large and heavy to operate from dirt strips, which it was expected to do in the role of Army cooperation aircraft.

The majority of the O-46As were transferred to the National Guard, but some aircraft did see active duty overseas, two aircraft of the 2nd Observation Squadron being destroyed when the Japanese attacked the Philippines on 8 December 1941. The O-46A was finally declared obsolete in 1942 and was relegated to training and utility duties as the L-46A.

One Douglas O-46A machine survives. It was presented to the USAF Museum in 1975 and is painted in the markings of an aircraft assigned to Wright Field Material Division in WW2.

The Kit

The Pavla O-46A consists of 43 injected molded pieces, 25 well-molded resin pieces and 2 vacuform clear for the canopy (the second one “just in case”, which is always a great idea to include). Decals are for three versions: an all-silver aircraft of the 2nd Observation Squadron, 4th Composite Group, USAAC, Clark Field, Philippines, December 1941; a blue and yellow aircraft of the 118th Observation Squadron of the Connecticut National Guard in 1938; and another all-silver “hack” aircraft of the 21st Pursuit Squadron of the 4th Composite Group, Philippine Islands, 1941. All decals are very nicely printed and in register.

Overall the quality level of Pavla kits has improved. Luckily the O-46 does not have the “grainy texture” their I-15 did, so that already is an improvement. Plus, overall, the plastic shows a finesse that didn’t exist in their earlier kits. In addition, the Pavla resin is normally always well done and can be considered some of the best on the market.

The only problems I can see with the plastic pieces exist with the struts that lead to the wing from the fuselage. Unfortunately both of those have nasty sink-marks that need to be filled. Luckily, though, this is the only molding flaw I can find in the plastic. There are very few to no air bubbles in the resin, so that’s an advantage as well.

Construction starts with putting all the smaller pieces together. Cockpit pieces, rear gunner’s area, engine, prop, etc. Probably not a bad idea to get all the smaller pieces out of the way. One modeling aspect I really don’t like is having to glue prop blades and the hub together – especially when it’s of dissimilar materials. The prop blades are plastic, but the hub is resin. It sure would have been nice to be given a single assembly.

Once all the smaller pieces are together and painted, then the wing halves are glued together and the cockpit and interior pieces assembled into the fuselage halves. After these halves are assembled then you add the horizontal tailpieces and the landing gear legs. I personally will add the landing gear legs prior to painting because of the uncertainty of assembly, being of mixed construction (the legs are resin). There might be seams and they’re better taken care of prior to painting. Once nice, inadvertent touch is that the horizontal tail surfaces are split into flying- and control surfaces. That means you can pose the stabilizers in any position you want. I said inadvertent because these were molded separately to ease the molding process – the flying surface is corrugated, with the control surface appears to be fabric covered.

More exterior bits and pieces are now put on and again I will do this prior to painting to ensure everything is blended in. One area I will deviate from is adding the prop – I will leave this off until the end. Another deviation is the drilling out of the windows on the belly of the aircraft. The instructions have you wait until after the fuselage halves are assembled – I will do this before hand, so cleaning up the drilled-out window area is easier. Having to clean this up with the fuselage halves together and the cockpit floor in place could be difficult.

Now the main struts and wing are added. I will leave the wing off while painting, but will glue the struts on prior to painting, using the wing as a jig to ensure everything is lined up correctly. There may be issues in terms of seams when finally adding the wing to the struts, but dealing with a small area of touch up is a lot easier than trying to spray the underside of the wing that sits over the fuselage.

Once the model is painted there are bits and pieces that need to be scratchbuilt added. Most of these are antennas and the like. Not only “wire-type” antenna, but look antenna as well.

Conclusion

This is a very nice kit of a subject only catered to before by an Execuform vac kit. While I have no references to compare it to for accuracy, it looks like the photos I have seen of an O-46A aircraft. Another ‘tweener previously missing from the 1/72nd injected world now provided for by the Czechs. Well done Pavla!

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